Blog Tour – The House by Simon Lelic *Review*

I’m delighted to be hosting today’s turn on The House by Simon Lelic blog tour. This appears to be a book that has caused mixed opinions and I would love to know what you think if you have read it! But first, what is it about?

The Blurb

The perfect couple. The perfect house.
THE PERFECT CRIME.

Londoners Jack and Syd moved into the house a year ago. It seemed like their dream home: tons of space, the perfect location, and a friendly owner who wanted a young couple to have it.

So when they made a grisly discovery in the attic, Jack and Syd chose to ignore it. That was a mistake.

Because someone has just been murdered outside their back door.

AND NOW THE POLICE ARE WATCHING THEM.

My Thoughts

The House by Simon Lelic had all the things I generally love in a book – the promise of a spooky house, a striking cover which differs from what we are currently used to seeing and the tag ‘psychological thriller’. I was really excited to get stuck into this book and I wanted (and expected) to love it, but sadly it turned out not to be for me.

Jack and Sydney have moved into their first home together. A house that should have been out of their reach financially somehow ends up being theirs. As the saying goes: ‘If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is’ and Jack and Sydney find this out to their cost. Jack always feels uneasy in the house and when he makes a grim discovery in the attic his fears are confirmed and things rapidly decline for them both.

Told in alternating chapters via Jack and Sydney in first person narrative, the story gradually unfolds via their individual perspectives. Lelic is a great writer and his ability to totally capture each unique voice is second to none. I believed I was being spoken to by two different people. Neither of the characters are particularly likeable, again this is something I normally relish within a novel, however, on this occasion I felt numb to it. The House is a very character driven plot and is very much a slow burner. Lelic has weaved together an intricate tale in which the threads are meticulously plotted and all come together well at the end.

While writing this, I can see all the things that should have made me love this book. I have wondered if I have a kind of psychological thriller burn-out, as I have been quite saturated by this genre recently. I worry that my mood at the time of reading may have hindered my enjoyment of this book. Sadly, I had guessed the eventual outcome correctly so I didn’t have the ‘oh my God’ revelation moment that others may have. I wasn’t effected by the characters which also had an impact on my enjoyment and I can’t really put my finger on why this was the case.

From the title and the cover I was expecting the actual house to feature more prominently within the story. I get why the book is called The House, however, I was expecting the book to be focused more strongly around it and it isn’t. A part of me was a little disappointed by this, but bear in mind that I am rather partial to a gothic story with a looming, all-embracing, spooky house and Lelic’s The House is more subtle.

The House appears to be one of those books that divides opinion and, unfortunately, I’m one of those who it didn’t work for. I certainly appreciate the writing and the way in which Lelic has created the main characters and woven the plot together, but it just didn’t effect me or shock me. As stated earlier, it may be that I have read too many novels in this particular genre recently. Would I recommend it? This is tricky for me to answer as although I wasn’t grabbed by it, I know others who were. Read a selection of reviews and decide from there would be my advice.

Published on eBook on 17 August 2017 and in paperback on 2 November 2017 by Penguin.

About the Author

Simon Lelic is the author of The House, Rupture (winner of a Betty Trask Award and shortlisted for the John Creasy New Blood Dagger), The Facility and The Child Who (longlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger and CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger 2012).

The House is his first psychological thriller, inspired by a love of Alfred Hitchcock and Stephen King.

Simon is married, with three young children, and lives in Brighton, England. Other than his family, reading is Simon’s biggest passion. He also holds a black belt in karate, in which he trains daily.

A huge thank you to Simon Lelic and Penguin for the advance copy and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

Follow the rest of the tour…

 

Blog Tour – Losing Myself by Victoria J Brown *Author Guest Post*

I’m delighted to be taking part in the Losing Myself blog tour with a great guest post by Victoria J Brown. 

Character Inspiration

People often ask me, and other writers, where do you get your ideas from? I like to write stories that people can relate to, therefore most of my own ideas come from real life experiences, either my own or others.

However, I was inspired to write about Kat because of my own real-life experiences and experiences from close family and friends around me.

Once I’d created Kat’s character the story began to flow, before I knew where I was, I was writing book three. I realise when people start to read the first book they might not have the highest opinion of Kat, she seems quite a bitter character, but from the reviews, I’m pleased to say that most readers can see why.

She lost her mum at such a young age, her dad found this hard to cope with, she’s angry at the world … there are so many people who are angry at the world. There are many people who put on an exterior pretence, an exterior that they feel protects them from hurt and hatred … I feel Kat does this to her detriment.

But, I hope as the story enfolds, my lovely readers can see why. Hopefully, their hearts go out to Kat. It was difficult writing about Kat, as I felt her upset and sadness. I couldn’t make her a fluffy character when she’d been through so much, however, she will develop into so much more, which is why I felt Kat deserved, not just one book but three! Her story as she becomes a better person needed to be told, and by the time readers reach book three, they’ll hopefully love Kat even more.

I felt as if, Book 1, Holding Myself, was the beginning of her journey, a great place to start in Kat’s life, it gave grounding as to where she was from, where she’d been and what her aims in life were. Obviously, Holding Myself, disrupted some of these ‘ideals’ but ‘that’s life’. Book 2, Losing Myself, is where Kat faces her decisions, and once again, as in life, things don’t go to plan! By Book 3, we see Kat’s emotional rollercoaster reaching an all time high. I believe, many women will relate to book 3, it’s probably the most serious, but the most comical. Sometimes in life, we need to look at the funny side. I just hope my readers can see this with Kat.

When I was creating Kat I wanted to connect with readers. I wanted to connect with women. The idea was, they would pick up Kat’s story and understand her as they would any other friend. Some of the reviews have stated they felt instantly connected to Kat and that it was as if they were reading about a friend. This makes Kat’s story worth telling. I’m so grateful to my readers, they are my inspiration to keep on writing.

Thank you Victoria for such a lovely guest post. I always love to find out where authors got their inspiration from. So, what is Losing Myself about? Here is the all-important blurb:

Since Kat made her decision, everything around her seems to be falling apart. Not only is she dealing with family’s secrets, lies and deceit but the salon, which is opening around the corner, threatens her livelihood.

To make matters worse her relationship with Max is on the rocks. Although her relationships with Max’s mother, her step-mother and her sister have grown stronger, are they strong enough?

Working tirelessly to save her salon and save her relationship with Max, she is battling everyday to stay focused on her future. But what will the future bring?

Losing Myself is published on 29 September 2017 by Bombshell Books.

Author Bio

Victoria J.Brown has always had a passion for writing. When asked at the age of 9 years old, what she wanted to be when she grew up, her reply ‘an author’ was met with a disheartened response, ‘that jobs like that, don’t happen to people like us!’

Luckily, Victoria didn’t listen to this advice and never gave up on her passion. She continued to write while perusing a career in Marketing after gaining a BA (Hons) in Business and Marketing.

In 2006 her eldest daughter was born and then two years later her 2nd daughter came along. Victoria realised in the midst of the mummy madness, that she’d let her writing dwindle and that nappy-changing, sleepless nights and not being able to go to the toilet in peace could not stop her fulfilling her writing dreams. So when her girls were 3 years old and 18 months old, she decided that sleep was over-rated and enrolled at Teesside University. A year later she proudly left with a MA in Creative Writing, some wonderful friendships and a passion for therapeutic writing. While studying for her MA she was also delighted to win a short-story competition judged by Adele Parks, to which she received publication and mentoring from Adele.

After her MA, Victoria concentrated on writing women’s fiction. She loves writing stories that women can relate to. The Chaos Series grew from her own experience of pregnancy, motherhood and life.

Victoria is also passionate about mental health and likes to write of such issues in her stories. Her dedication to mental health and living life to the full has led her down a spiritual path. Through her learning of spirituality she qualified as a Law of Attraction and NLP Practitioner, which she integrates into her writing. Her inspirational blog includes an A-Z motivational journey with weekly therapeutic creative writing exercises. She has developed this further and will soon launch her inspirational shop. The shop has been created to pass on positivity and love to others … you never know when someone may need to see those messages.

Being accepted by Bombshell Books is a dream come true for Victoria, she hopes that her mantra for giving love always and never giving up will inspire others to follow their dreams and passion.

If you’re interested in finding out more about Victoria, her inspirational blog and shop you can visit www.victoria-brown.com, plus you can follow her on:
FB: www.facebook.com/vicjbrown/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/victoriajbrown
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/victoriaj.brown/
Pintrest: https://uk.pinterest.com/victoriajbrown/

A huge thank you to Sarah Hardy at Bombshell Books for inviting me to take part in the blog tour. Follow the rest of the tour:

 

Review – A Whiff of Cyanide by Guy Fraser-Sampson

The Blurb

The third volume of the bestselling Hampstead Murders sees the team become involved with a suspicious death at a crime writers’ convention. Is this the result of a bitterly contested election for the Chair of the Crime Writers’ Association or are even darker forces at work? Peter Collins, who is attending the convention as the author of a new book on poisoning in Golden Age fiction, worries that the key clue to unlock this puzzle may be buried within his own memories. A character called Miss Marple offers her advice, but how should the police receive this? Meanwhile an act of sudden, shocking violence and a dramatic revelation threaten tragic consequences…

My Thoughts

I am a big fan of Fraser-Sampson’s Hampstead Murders and always look forward to the next instalment. A Whiff of Cyanide is a fantastic addition to the series and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Originally, I believe this was going to be a trilogy and I was thrilled to recently learn that there will be more books in the series.

Settling into A Whiff of Cyanide felt very much like meeting up with a group of old friends that you are completely comfortable with. I adore the characters and was pleased to be spending time with Bob Metcalfe, Karen Willis, Peter Collins and Simon Collison again.

A Whiff of Cyanide begins with a re-introduction to the characters and along with setting the scene it works perfectly as a refresher covering the salient points of the last two novels without going over old ground. This works perfectly as a reminder about where we had left the characters in the previous two books and also as an introduction to those who may be reading this as their first in the series. A Whiff of Cyanide does work as a standalone, however, you really are missing out if you don’t read Death in Profile and Miss Christie Regrets first.

An author dies during a crime writer’s convention that Peter is attending. Unsure as to whether her death is suicide or murder, the team have to investigate to get to the bottom of her death. What I love about these books is the use of old-fashioned detective work rather than reliance on modern-day forensic science and A Whiff of Cyanide is no different. Full of twists and turns that I never saw coming, I was hooked from the start and relished every surprise and revelation. I am so pleased this is not the last in the series.

The tongue-in-cheek humour throughout A Whiff of Cyanide makes this book all the more enjoyable. There is a character called Miss Marple and the setting of a writer’s convention gives Fraser-Sampson the opportunity to poke fun at his profession but, I hasten to add, not in a derogatory way. It adds another layer to the book. The references amongst the characters as to what would happen in a Golden Age crime novel which then go on to occur within the book is genius.

A great addition to the Hampstead Murders series, A Whiff of Cyanide lived up to my expectations and, dare I say, may be my favourite in the series so far. It has all of the charm and manners you would expect alongside a meticulous plot and twists that ensure you can’t wait for the next instalment. Fantastic and highly recommended. A Whiff of Cyanide is a welcome antidote to the current crime novels on the market.

Published on 2 June 2017 by Urbane Publications.

A huge thank you to Guy Fraser-Sampson and Urbane for my copy in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

Check out my reviews of Death in Profile and Miss Christie Regrets.

Author Influences with Erik Therme

I am delighted to welcome Erik Therme to Bloomin’ Brilliant Books today. Erik tells us all about the books and authors who have influenced him and I have news about how his latest book Roam.

Which authors/books did you like to read as a child?
Harold and the Purple Crayon—a fantastical tale about a child who “draws things into existence” with his crayon—was one of my all-time favorite books growing up. When I grew older and graduated to chapter books, I devoured mystery series like Encyclopedia Brown and The Three Investigators.

Were you good at English at school? Did you like it?
I was a terrible student in general. I daydreamed, fidgeted, and spent the majority of class time watching the clock. I always scored low on my tests, and the only reason I passed any of my classes was because I got high marks on papers and assignments (i.e.: anything “writing” related).

What genres do you like to read? Have they had an impact on the genre you write?
I’ve always gravitated toward darker stories, and there’s no question it’s fed into my own story-telling. I think it’s because I’m endlessly fascinated by people’s motivations and the choices they make. Life is complicated and messy, and even the best of us have dark moments. Do the ends justify the means? Do two wrongs make a right? These are the types of questions that drive my characters to do what they do.

If you were to write a different genre, what would it be and why?
I think I would enjoy writing comedy. I love books that are infused with fun, quirky characters, and one of my favorite things in life is to try and make people laugh.

Did any author’s work encourage you to pick up your pen and write and if so who, what and why?
In junior high, I discovered the book Misery (Stephen King), which inspired me to start writing my own stories. They weren’t very good, but I kept at it, worked hard to hone my skills, and eventually developed my own writing style.

Are there any authors who, as soon as they publish a new book, you have to get it?
I’m always anxiously awaiting a new Joshua Gaylord (pen name Alden Bell) novel, who wrote one of my favorite books of all time: The Reapers Are the Angels. It’s a tasty bit of literary fiction, set in a post-apocalyptic world of zombies. I would happily read this man’s grocery list if he published it. Yes, he’s that good.

Which book have you read that have made you think ’Wow, I wish I had written that’ and what was it about the book?
Catcher in the Rye was the first book that truly spoke to me. It was as if Salinger had peered into my soul, stole my misunderstood youth, and put it on display for the world to see. I’d love to try my own hand at literary fiction, but I don’t think I have the required talent, as my writing is never as elegant as I’d like.

Have any of your plots/characters been influenced by real life events/people? (Be careful, I don’t want you getting sued!)
My latest novel, Roam, was inspired by a long stretch of highway on the outskirts of my hometown. In my younger days, I traveled the isolated road every weekend, and I always wondered what I would do if my car broke down, or if I came across a hitchhiker. Over time, a story began to take shape in my mind, and eventually—years later—Roam came to life.

A huge thank you Erik for the brilliant answers. I still haven’t got round to reading Catcher in the Rye and I’m going to have to rectify that!

Erik’s latest book Roam is out now and until 27th September it is FREE on BookBub so grab your copy while you can!

The Blurb

When three lives intersect in an unsavory hotel with a bloody history, each will struggle to exorcise their personal demons, unaware that a bigger threat is looming . . . and waiting for the right moment to strike.

Like Joshua Gaylord and Daniel Kraus before him, author Erik Therme explores the angst of disconnected youth in his enthralling and powerful Roam. Therme’s darkly tinged novel is an unforgettable tale of three errant souls brutalized by life’s cruel circumstances, and a remarkable night of discovery and violence that will change them forever.

About Erik Therme

Erik Therme has thrashed in garage bands, inadvertently harbored runaways, and met Darth Vader. When he’s not at his computer, he can be found cheering for his youngest daughter’s volleyball team, or watching horror movies with his seventeen-year-old. He currently resides in Iowa City, Iowa—one of only twenty places in the world UNESCO has certified as a City of Literature.

Website
https://www.eriktherme.com

Twitter
https://twitter.com/ErikTherme

Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/ErikTherme.writer

Goodreads
https://www.goodreads.com/author/list/7831573.Erik_Therme

 

Blog Blitz – A Time To Change by Callie Langridge *Author Guest Post*

I am delighted to be taking part in the blog blitz for Callie Langridge’s A Time to Change today and sharing a great guest post on inspiration by the lady herself. But first here’s the all important book blurb:

A Time to Change Blurb

“I would rather love passionately for an hour than benignly for a lifetime.”

In a house full of history and secrets, the past will not stay where it belongs…

Lou has always loved Hill House, the derelict manor on the abandoned land near her home. As a child, the tragic history of its owners, the Mandevilles, inspired her dream to become a history teacher. But in her late twenties, and working in a shop to pay off student debts, life is passing her by.

That changes when a family disaster sends Lou’s life into a downward spiral and she seeks comfort in the ruined corridors of Hill House. The house transforms around her and Lou is transported back to Christmas 1913. Convinced she has been in an accident and is in a coma, Lou immerses herself in her Edwardian dream. With the Mandevilles oblivious to her true identity, Lou becomes their houseguest and befriends the eldest son, Captain Thomas Mandeville, a man she knows is destined to die in the First World War.

Lou feels more at home in the past than the present and when she realises the experience is real she sets out to do everything in her power to save her new friends.

Lou passes between 1913 and 2013, unearthing plots of murder and blackmail, which she must stop no matter the cost.

On her quest to save the Mandevilles by saving Thomas, Lou will face the hardest decision of her life. She will learn that love cannot be separated by a century.

A Flash of Inspiration by Callie Langridge

I don’t know about you, but when I read a book, I’m fascinated by where writers get their ideas. If you’re lucky and have an interesting life – maybe you’re a polar explorer, an historian with a wealth of knowledge on an era, or a world-leading expert on a particular subject – then you have a great background on which to frame your fiction. But if you’re like me, you are none of these. What interests me is being human. I’m fascinated by our feelings and emotions and intrigued by what lurks inside all of us that makes us who we are: what shared experiences join us and what has happened to each of us to distinguish us from the person who sits beside us on the bus, with their bag of shopping on their knee or flicking through the newspaper.

If you write about feelings and emotions, you run the risk of having a book full long passages of internal monologue. That might work for some great writers, but for most of us, we need a good story with characters and layers to wind our stories around and within.

At school I spent a lot of time gazing out of the classroom window, creating stories of a world infinitely more interesting than the lesson I was supposed to be participating in. I was, am, and will always be an unashamed daydreamer. I’m also an observer. Like a sponge, I soak up life that’s going on around me. I watch people, I eavesdrop on conversations, I cherry pick aspects of life to turn into stories, scenes and dialogue. I allow myself to be inspired by TV, films, books, the news, anything and everything. And then there are my amazing dreams. I’m lucky to have the most vivid dreams like scenes from movies. The idea for A TIME TO CHANGE came in a dream. I dreamt of a splendid party in a beautiful manor house with chandeliers and champagne. It was on the eve of the First World War. I knew that there was a conflict about a man. I saw the party through the eyes of an outsider who ran from the party, stumbled through the snow and then – I don’t want to give too much away here! – but something amazing happened and it was clear that the person through whose eyes I was seeing this was not of that time. I woke up and wrote it down. But that was it. Until I thought about it. The story germinated. Shoots came off. Who was this person? What was this manor house? Why was she there? Bit by bit a story began to take shape.

And those are the two most important tools in my writing box. I get my ideas by listening to my imagination – being open to the stories it finds for me – and then asking ‘What If’. What if this happened, what if that happened. What if she said this? What if he did that?

I find a springboard and then go off on a journey of discovery.

A huge thank you Callie for the wonderful guest post. I’m always curious about where authors get their ideas from and really enjoyed reading this.

Author Bio

Callie was born and brought up in Berkshire. After a brief teenage spell in the depths of Lancashire, she moved back to London.

Having left school at 16, she studied drama before embarking on a career in marketing. This saw her work in music marketing in the heady days of Britpop in the nineties. She unleashed her creativity in the design of window displays and marketing campaigns for the leading music retailer. More recently she has followed her passion for social history and currently works in marketing for a national historical institution, promoting projects and running events.

On hitting her thirtieth birthday, she decided finally to take her A levels and gained A’s in English Literature and Language, and Film Studies – not bad when working full time! – and this spurred her on to take the first of many creative writing course. A few years later and she has had a number of short stories published and plays performed at theatres and venues across London.

Callie lives in London with her long-term partner and an ever-growing collection of antique curiosities.

Twitter: @CLangridgeWrite
Facebook: Callie Langridge https://www.facebook.com/people/Callie-Langridge/100017408860162

A huge thank you to Sarah Hardy at Bombshell Books for inviting me to take part in the Blog Blitz and to Callie Langridge for taking the time to write a great guest post. A time to change is published on 24th September 2017.

 

Blog Tour – The Doll House by Phoebe Morgan *Author Guest Post*

Welcome to my turn on The Doll House blog tour. I am delighted to have a great guest post by Phoebe Morgan on writing tips! I will hand you over to Pheobe and then tell you more about her debut novel.

My Top Three Writing Tips by Phoebe Morgan

1. Don’t try to edit as you go
It can be really hard as you write to resist the urge to correct every sentence as soon as it’s down on the page, but my advice would be to try not to do this. Instead, keep writing, and once you have a first draft, you can then go back and edit it as much as you like! If you keep stopping and going back after every new paragraph, you will find that your manuscript progresses very slowly, and the chances are that you’ll end up changing it all again later anyway. No first draft is anywhere near perfect – far from it – but you will feel so much better psychologically when you have a body of work that you can then play around with. There is something about having the finished draft that takes some of the pressure off – and then you can begin sculpting it into the end product, which I often find more enjoyable than the initial scramble to get words on the page.

2. Know your characters’ backstories
In the first draft of The Doll House, the character of Mathilde had a whole backstory where we got to see her marriage, how she first met her husband and the different jobs she had as a young woman. During the editing process, all of that got cut out, but it didn’t really matter because I knew all about her life and so it made for a (hopefully!) more rounded, 3D character in the final draft. Even though the reader hadn’t seen her backstory, it was all fleshed out in my head and so I knew what kind of character I needed her to be. I think it’s always important to know your characters really well, so that their actions, thoughts and decisions ring true to your readers. I like plotting the characters out in spider diagrams before I write – just little things like their traits and hobbies, and even if that content doesn’t go in the book or only takes up a sentence or two, it just makes them into believable people on the page.

3. Don’t be scared to cut things out
When you’ve worked very hard on something, the idea of deleting great swathes can seem terrifying, and you’ll probably find that every instinct in your body is screaming out no! But it’s like that moment when you swim in the sea – you really don’t want to put your shoulders under but then when you do, it’s really fun and you’re glad you did. Once you actually start cutting out bits that aren’t adding to the pace, aren’t moving the story forwards or just aren’t of interest to a reader, you’ll find you get a bit of a buzz as you see your clean manuscript emerging in front of you, without all the unnecessary extra words that were weighing it down.

Thank you Phoebe for the great tips.

The Doll House Blurb

You never know who’s watching…

Corinne’s life might look perfect on the outside, but after three failed IVF attempts it’s her last chance to have a baby. And when she finds a tiny part of a doll house outside her flat, it feels as if it’s a sign.

But as more pieces begin to turn up, Corinne realises that they are far too familiar. Someone knows about the miniature rocking horse and the little doll with its red velvet dress. Someone has been inside her house…

How does the stranger know so much about her life? How long have they been watching? And what are they waiting for…?

A gripping debut psychological thriller with a twist you won’t see coming. Perfect for fans of I See You and The Widow.

Published on 14 September by HQ Digital

A huge thank you to Phoebe Morgan and Helena Sheffield for inviting me to take part in the blog tour. Follow the est of the tour for more author guest posts and reviews…

 

Review – The Shogun’s Queen by Lesley Downer

The Blurb

The year is 1853, and a young Japanese girl’s world is about to be turned upside down.

When black ships carrying barbarians arrive on the shores of Japan, the Satsuma clan’s way of life is threatened. But it’s not just the samurai who must come together to fight: the beautiful, headstrong Okatsu is also given a new destiny by her feudal lord – to save the realm.

Armed only with a new name, Princess Atsu, as she is now known, journeys to the women’s palace of Edo Castle, a place so secret it cannot be marked on any map. Behind the palace’s immaculate façade, amid rumours of murder and whispers of ghosts, Atsu must uncover the secret of the man whose fate, it seems, is irrevocably linked to hers – the shogun himself – if she is to rescue her people . . .

My Thoughts

I’ve been intrigued by Geisha’s and Japanese culture for a while – I loved Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha and adore Madame Butterfly – but my knowledge of Japan’s history is extremely limited. When I was asked if I would like to read and review Lesley Downer’s The Shogun’s Queen I didn’t hesitate to agree. It has taken me a while to get around to reading it and now I have I will definitely be reading Downer’s other books in The Shogun Quartet of which this is the first. Downer has opened up my curiosity about Japanese culture and I want to know more, always a good sign in historical fiction.

Based on historical fact, The Shogun’s Queen is set in Japan in 1853 and follows the life of Okatsu from the Satsuma clan. A turbulent time in the country’s existence, Japan finds itself being opened up to the Western world when ships begin to appear from America, Britain and Russia. Okatsu finds herself thrust into a position in which her influence can directly impact and influence Japan’s ability to maintain its tradition and culture and whether or not the country becomes embroiled in war.

Okatsu is incredibly well portrayed and she is immensely likeable. This courageous, selfless young woman who gives up everything for her country is an amazing character and is made even more amazing as she actually existed. As pointed out in the Afterword, Downer advises that the women of Japanese history are largely ignored and yet Okatsu was an integral part of that history.

Downer has written a captivating account of an elusive and secretive world. Her prose is such that she fully draws you into this society and every part of The Shogun’s Queen is meticulously portrayed. From the thoughts and feelings unique to their culture to the descriptions of the surroundings, you are completely immersed in the book. It had me considering viewpoints that I wouldn’t have thought about without reading it. It is sumptuous and beautiful and yet also captures the underlying disadvantages of those women living in, what is essentially, a luxurious prison.

Downer clearly knows a lot about Japanese culture and history and her careful and considered research comes through to create an accessible, fascinating, insightful book. As I stated earlier, The Shogun’s Queen has whet my appetite to find out more about this era in Japan.

The intrigue had me completely gripped and enthralled. Okatsu has an impossible task and I was desperately hoping that she would be successful in her task. I didn’t want The Shogun’s Queen to end and when it did I was left feeling bereft. It is one of those books that leaves an indelible mark on you and has you thinking about it for days afterwards.

A wonderfully written, fascinating, all absorbing account of a critical turning point in Japanese history. Full of political intrigue and yet emotionally charged, The Shogun’s Queen is an epic tale that I have no doubt those who enjoy historical fiction will love as much as I did.

Published in ebook on 3 November 2016 by Transworld Digital and paperback on 27 July 2017 by Corgi.

A huge thank you to Lesley Downer and Transworld (Bantam Press) for my copy in exchange for my review. 

Blog Tour – House of Spines by Michael J Malone *Review*

I am super excited to be on the House of Spines by Michael J Malone blog tour today with the fabulous Blue Book Balloon, and to finally be able to share my review of this bloomin’ brilliant book. I loved it! To find out why, read on…

The Blurb

Ran McGhie’s world has been turned upside down. A young, lonely and frustrated writer, and suffering from mental-health problems, he discovers that his long-dead mother was related to one of Glasgow’s oldest merchant families. Not only that, but Ran has inherited Newton Hall, a vast mansion that belonged to his great-uncle, who appears to have been watching from afar as his estranged great-nephew has grown up. Entering his new-found home, he finds that Great-Uncle Fitzpatrick has turned it into a temple to the written word – the perfect place for poet Ran. But everything is not as it seems. As he explores the Hall’s endless corridors, Ran’s grasp on reality appears to be loosening. And then he comes across an ancient lift; and in that lift a mirror. And in the mirror … the reflection of a woman …

A terrifying psychological thriller with more than a hint of the Gothic, House of Spines is a love letter to the power of books, and an exploration of how lust and betrayal can be deadly…

My Thoughts

I have been eagerly anticipating this book, however, there is always a worry that a book you are desperate to read won’t live up to expectations especially when you have loved an author’s previous work as much as I loved Malone’s A Suitable Lie. I am pleased to say I had nothing to worry about as House of Spines is amazing and I adored it!

I do have one problem though, and that is how on earth to write this review and do House of Spines justice. Malone has combined so many things I love in one book and while I want to talk about it, I want readers to have the same experience I did in reading it for the first time. Talking about it is, therefore, difficult. I wish I was a member of a reading group that currently had House of Spines as their current read as there is so much to discuss.

House of Spines has everything you could want in a novel – the uncovering of closely held family secrets, a complex and damaged main character, a web of deceit and enough left to the reader’s interpretation to make you continue thinking about it long after you have closed the book for the final time. It also has the gothic elements I have loved since first discovering Wuthering Heights and Du Maurier as a teenager.

The prologue captured my attention immediately and literally begged me to read on. Simultaneously intriguing and moving, Malone has created the perfect introduction to main character Ranald. You just know there are going to be several layers to this man due to his experiences. I was with Ranald for every step of his journey – from him inheriting a house from the great uncle he never knew existed, to his unravelling and the position he ultimately finds himself in in the end. While there were moments I doubted him, I desperately wanted him to be okay.

My other favourite ‘character’ in House of Spines was Newton Hall – the property in which the book is named after. While Newton Hall cannot be classed as a character in the normal sense of the word, its importance to the book cannot be ignored. It has an omnipresence that is both disturbing and delightful. I found myself both loving Newton Hall and being repelled by it. I was in awe of it and yet nervous in its presence and about the impact it had on Ranald. I wanted the best for Ranald yet I also wanted the best for Newton Hall and being unsure if the two could go hand in hand, I wasn’t sure, if push came to shove, which of the two I would support. The energy Newton Hall emits, the secrets it harbours and Malone’s writing and conveyance of the two caused a mix of emotions within me. Newton Hall caused me much trepidation and yet I was enthralled by it.

House of Spines is a story of mistruths, mistrust and generational discord in which the most harmful aspects of being human are passed down from one relative to another. Whose version of events are to be believed continues to be a question I am mulling over days after reading. Malone incorporates the right amount of red herrings in order for the reader to be caught off guard and the distrust that lies amongst the characters of the book becomes a state the reader also finds themselves in.

Malone touches on mental health issues throughout House of Spines and deals with this with sensitivity and insight. It is a credit to Malone’s skills as a writer that he has managed to combine a current issue with a gripping psychological thriller while maintaining an otherworldly element and feel. Malone’s prose at times hit me right in the heart and you can clearly see the poet within him.

House of Spines will send shivers down your spine, leave you questioning, take you by surprise and mess with your emotions. Read it, it’s fantastic and will undoubtedly be included as one of my books of 2017.

Published on 15 September 2017 by Orenda Books.

About the Author

Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up in the heart of Burns’ country, just a stone’s throw from the great man’s cottage in Ayr. Well, a stone thrown by a catapult. He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and Markings. His career as a poet has also included a (very) brief stint as the Poet-In-Residence for an adult gift shop. Blood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize (judge: Alex Gray) from the Scottish Association of Writers. Other published work includes: Carnegie’s Call (a non-fiction work about successful modern-day Scots); A Taste for Malice; The Guillotine Choice; Beyond the Rage and The Bad Samaritan. His psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, was a number one bestseller. Michael is a regular reviewer for the hugely popular crime fiction website www.crimesquad.com. A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller.

A massive thank you to Michael J Malone, Orenda Books and Anne Cater for the advance copy and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

Follow the rest of the tour…

 

Author Influences with KA Richardson

It’s Wednesday which means it’s time for another Author Influences and today I’m delighted to welcome crime and thriller writer KA Richardson to the blog. So let’s find out about the books and authors that have inspired her and her work.

Which authors/books did you like to read as a child?
Pretty much anything I could devour – I loved Enid Blyton, and moved rapidly onto Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys – also the Willard Price adventures. When I turned double figures I enjoyed Point Horror books and in my early teens moved onto adult crime novels.

Were you good at English at school? Did you like it?
English was one of my top subjects at school – I always got good grades and enjoyed the reading material – even Shakespeare! My favourite book I read whilst at school was Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. It was the first book I remember reading that made me cry.

What genres do you like to read? Have they had an impact on the genre you write?
I enjoy a wide diversity of genres however tend to read more crime and romantic suspense than anything else. They probably have impacted on my writing in some ways – but so has the jobs I’ve had – I worked as a CSI for years and still work for the police albeit in an alternate role now. Due to these jobs, I find it easy to focus on the forensic side of an investigation.

If you were to write a different genre what would it be and why?
I’ve started a supernatural trilogy which I’m loving writing – it frees you of restraints and lets you write what you like without having to be too influenced by ‘is this procedure right’ or ‘would a cop really do that’.

Did any author’s work encourage you to pick up your pen and write and if so who, what and why?
So many!! I read Stephen King’s book, On Writing and it was honestly one of the best and most refreshing books about writing I’ve ever read. It’s inspiring and from the king of horror and much of it resonated with me. Other’s that have inspired me though are Karen Rose – she’s a fantastic author who writes romantic suspense and I love how her characters bring the book to life. She’s also been disadvantaged through life in some ways with her disability which makes her writing even better and deeper as she often focuses on people with some form of disability.

Are there any authors who, as soon as they publish a new book, you have to get it?
Karen Rose for sure – and Mo Hayder.

Which books have you read that have made you think ’Wow, I wish I had written that’ and what was it about the book?
Mo Hayder’s book The Treatment. I absolutely love the wandering man character and would have loved to have written him! Also it’s so deliciously dark and terrifying that it had me checking the doors and windows before I went to bed!

Have any of your plots/characters been influenced by real life events/people? (Be careful, I don’t want you getting sued!)
I think all characters have some elements taken from people you know – or people you see in the street etc. None of my characters are based on actual people but definitely a little of certain people may feature in many of them.

A huge thank you for taking part. I totally agree with you on Mo Hayder, she is fantastic!

KA Richardson’s latest book Watch You Burn is out now and here is what it’s about:

Someone is breaking into Fire Investigator, Edina Blaze’s, home and leaving deadly messages. When Glen Peacock is burned alive, she has to put her own problems aside and attend the location with Crime Scene Manager, Kevin Lang.
As the body count rises, Edina’s sister Heather becomes involved. Is it her setting these gruesome fires? Or is she a target too?
Kevin has seen it all in his years on the force, but when a young girl is found burnt to death, even he is shocked.
Who is taking pleasure in watching people burn? Why are they doing it? And will they be caught?

DI Alistair McKay and the team from North East Police have to work quickly to stop the killer, before they all end up in flames.

About KA Richardson

KA Richardson is the author of the North East Police series – there are four out in the series so far, the most recent of which is Watch You Burn. This was published in May 2017 and features the Fire Investigation Team. KA Richardson finished her Ma Creative Writing in 2011 and has been focusing on publication ever since. She is privileged to have had two publishers – Caffeine Nights (for her first novel) and now Bloodhound Books for the rest in the series.
Website: www.kerryannrichardson.com
Twitter: @kerryann77 or @karichardson77
Facebook: KA Richardson
Instagram: @kerryann77

Blog Tour – The Kindred Killers by Graham Smith *Review*

Hurrah, I’m really pleased to be one of the turns on The Kindred Killers by Graham Smith blog tour today alongside Have Book Will Read. I couldn’t wait to read the second Jake Boulder book after thoroughly enjoying the first (read my review of Watching the Bodies HERE). Before I share my thoughts here is the all-important blurb:

The Blurb

Jake Boulder’s help is requested by his best friend, Alfonse, when his cousin is crucified and burned alive along with his wife and children.
As Boulder tries to track the heinous killer, a young woman is abducted. Soon her body is discovered and Boulder realises both murders have something unusual in common.
With virtually no leads for Boulder to follow, he strives to find a way to get a clue as to the killer’s identity. But is he hunting for one killer or more?
After a young couple are snatched in the middle of the night the case takes a brutal turn. When the FBI is invited to help with the case, Boulder finds himself warned of the investigation.
When gruesome, and incendiary, footage from a mobile phone is sent to all the major US News outlets and the pressure to find those responsible for the crimes mounts.  But with the authorities against him can Boulder catch the killer before it’s too late?

My Thoughts

I was lucky enough to read and review the first in Graham Smith’s Jake Boulder series, Watching the Bodies, and knew that I would definitely be following the rest of the series. We haven’t had to wait too long for the next instalment and, I’m pleased to say, The Kindred Killers lived up to expectation, firmly placing Boulder on the ‘must-read series’ list. If you haven’t yet read Watching the Bodies I suggest you do, however, The Kindred Killers works equally well as a standalone.

Private investigator and doorman Jake Boulder is back … and back with a bang! The first chapter introduces/re-introduces the reader to the character of Jake brilliantly and it quickly progresses into, what may turn out to be, possibly the most personal case he and his partner Alfonse ever face. I can’t help but like Jake – he is a tough Glaswegian who finds it difficult to maintain relationships – and The Kindred Killers hints that there is more to find out about him in the next books. I look forward to learning more about him. The combination of his ability to handle himself in almost any situation and his detective skills alongside Alfonse’s tech skills make the duo a great team.

Following the gruesome murder of Alfonse’s cousin and his family, the pair set out to find who is responsible. While looking for the motivation for the killings Jake and Alfonse uncover something more sinister and threatening than they imagined. In The Kindred Killers Smith has written a gripping thriller that is incredibly topical and, quite frankly, a scary look at the extremes that certain factions of society will go to in the name of their beliefs. The gruesome way in which the murders are committed show that Smith has researched many aspects of the issues raised in the book. I don’t want to say anything more on this as I don’t want to spoil anything!

The pace doesn’t let up and I found myself racing through The Kindred Killers in no time at all. Smith ensures that each chapter is essential and has you having to read more. Again, Smith pulls off the setting of America perfectly making you forget that this is written by a British author.

A fantastic follow-up to what always promised to be a great series, The Kindred Killers is a cracking crime thriller and is a must for your bookshelf if you enjoy this genre.

Published on 12 September 2017 by Bloodhound Books.

A huge thank you to Graham Smith and Sarah Hardy at Bloodhound Books for the advance copy and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour. Follow the rest of the tour…